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GM Aims To Cut Chevy Volt Cost By $10,000 — While Making It Profitable

By Climate Guest Contributor on May 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

"GM Aims To Cut Chevy Volt Cost By $10,000 — While Making It Profitable"

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By Nicholas Brown via CleanTechnica

I have been following the electrification of vehicles closely since about 2008.

I kept wishing that researchers would develop improved battery technology for electric vehicles, and I’ve seen it happen many times. The development of lithium-ion battery technology really is on a roll. There is now a major discovery multiple times per year.

What has kept bothering me is having to wait for these advancements to make it to commercialization — many of the technologies still have not been commercialized.

But some advancements have crept their way into the commercial products, and simply scaling up of production is helping to reduce costs.

General Motors (GM) CEO Dan Akerson’s wishful thinking once again has me hopeful that the EV industry will make another stride soon (in addition to other developments).

Following previous EV price cuts, Akerson said that he has plans in mind to achieve the $7000–$10,000 cost reductions mentioned above, and that the car will be profitable at that point.

The plans include a weight reduction of the 3,700-pound car and a switch to a dedicated platform, rather than the use of the gasoline-powered Cruze platform.

Gasoline-powered car platforms are optimized for gasoline-powered cars, and are not ideal for electric cars.

Electric cars are best when designed from the ground up so that their entire bodies are optimized to achieve the lowest possible cost and the best characteristics of electric cars overall.

For example, gasoline-powered cars use firewalls, gas tanks, and of course gasoline engines, which the car has to be designed around.

Even weight distribution could be improved by designing the car from the ground up, spreading out the batteries more ideally along the floor (just an example of what could be done).

The next generation of the Chevy Volt will be released in 2015 as a 2016 model. So, while the $7000–$10000 cut sounds good, it looks like we still need to wait awhile.

– Nicholas Brown. Reprinted with permission from CleanTechnica

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24 Responses to GM Aims To Cut Chevy Volt Cost By $10,000 — While Making It Profitable

  1. Paul Klinkman says:

    I keep wishing that overwhelmingly cost-efficient solar technologies on the ground (or sometimes in the ground) would get commercialized. It doesn’t happen. This nation is such a bunch of losers?

    Yesterday three of us tore down a really neat prototype.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for this, and I’m glad GM is getting away from the original assumptions, which came from a right wing establishment exec.

    Question for Nicholas:

    What will be the range of the new version of the Volt? I’m glad they got away from the gas part, and love the price reduction, but hope it has a 250 mile range.

    • Sasparilla says:

      Hey Mike, I think the next Volt will still be a plug-in with an engine (not pure electric).

      • Ed Leaver says:

        I think you’re right. GM will have Chevy Spark EV RSN if that’s what one wants. A 250 mile range “would be nice” — but that’s Tesla S territory. Thus far Chevy Volt’s customers are using it as intended, averaging a bit over 1000 miles per 9.3 gallon tank. The 2016 model will likely have a smaller 3 cylinder range extender.

      • Paul Klinkman says:

        If GM wants to get rid of the engine (think 300,000 miles per car) they can have a battery swapping system. Then the range of the car equals the stamina of the driver. Cannonball run to the West Coast, anybody?

        Put a computer chip on each battery pack that measures how badly each particular customer has abused that battery pack, or not. Bill the customer appropriately each time that the customer swaps out for a new battery pack.

        • Hello Paul.

          The ability to replenish charge/swap batteries quickly could make a world of a difference because prolonged charge time is one of the greatest causes of range anxiety.

          If you could simply recharge or swap batteries in 5 minutes, you could make very long trips because you could just keep recharging/swapping along the way, and go all the way across the continental United States if you wanted to.

          That is how fast charging addresses range anxiety.

          When batteries take 3-8 hours to charge, you can’t make those long trips unless you plan to take 3-8 hour breaks multiple times.

          Charge time has been dropping, and is as little as 20 minutes for the Chevy Spark.

    • Unfortunately, I did not obtain a range estimate. However, I expect the range improvement to be marginal if the price reduction is that great, although, a breakthrough is possible.

      Don’t worry, you will see considerably better range in the future!

  3. BillD says:

    This article seems to only deal with positives: better batteries, newly designed frame, lower cost. But the article concludes that we still need to wait. What are the developments that we need to wait for? Is it battery improvments that have not been commercialized?

    • Sasparilla says:

      Yes BillD, I think that’s exactly it. The vehicles go through a serious redesign every 5 years or so (and have that same battery, despite minor tweaks, for that whole time).

      Meanwhile the batteries are dropping in price at about 3-4% per year and advancing in range/chemistries (that’s without large breakthroughs that are happening) – but since the cars don’t change big things like the batteries at that rate (they have to certify them to death before rolling them out in a vehicle – which is a good thing)…we have to wait for new models or the big redesigns (every 5 years or so) to get the benefit of the rapidly advancements in Li technologies/chemistries.

      A window into this, I believe Tesla is guaranteeing people who buy a Model S that they’ll be able to buy a replacement pack later in the decade (if they want to) for 1/2 of what they cost now (if memory serves). Now the Model S has a huge battery pack so even as it loses some range most folks probably won’t need to buy one – but Tesla can already count on massive drops in price by the 2nd half of this decade.

    • Spacenut says:

      I think a lot of people are waiting on the graphene revolution before committing to any new battery technology. Many, including myself, think this is the real game changer and it’s so close. This video is already outdated and commercialization appears to be very close and very soon.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtM6XJlynkk

      Couple this with Peter Sinclair’s video at the top of his post Getting paid to charge your car and we have a way to transform the world’s energy systems almost overnight. The fossil fuel and utility industries are very, very frightened by this and all so-called heretofore decency they have shown is no longer applicable.

      http://climatecrocks.com/2013/04/26/getting-paid-to-charge-your-car-first-steps/

    • Ed Leaver says:

      No need to wait. If you need a new car and want an extended range EV, Chevy Volt is available today. If you don’t need a new car today, you are always better off waiting. Advances in lecky-tech will come, but battery safety takes first priority. No one wants to build another Pinto.

    • BBHY says:

      I’ve had my electric car for four years. Who is waiting? No need to wait. If you want one the cars are ready.

      The biggest factor is the price of conventional fuel. Gasoline prices still start with a 3 so progress is going to be slow. When that changes to 4 then we will see electrics take off, and when it gets to a 5 then lots of people will be switching right away.

    • Hello.

      Yes, we will have to wait and hope that this initiative is successful.

      I would not be surprised if battery pack improvements were made.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    It’ll be great to see GM get this vehicle out, drop the price and make money.

    The fact that they have put the bet on an independent platform (which is expensive from an investment standpoint) is very gratifying to see…it means the current GM execs (different from the people who launched the Volt) are in this for the long haul.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    All the EVs being produced now are like the 1984 Apple Macintosh — built with proprietary hardware, proprietary form factors and interfaces, components that are not interoperable with other manufacturers — and very expensive.

    What we need is EVs like the IBM PC — built with generic off-the-shelf components, industry-standard form factors and interfaces, interoperable & interchangeable third-party components — and cheap.

    Just as IBM’s open design for the original PC launched the “clone” PC industry which led to rapid improvements in the technology and even more rapidly plummeting costs, this approach is what gets us to under-$10,000 EVs for the masses.

    IBM is already working on advanced battery technologies; maybe they should build their own EV using an open technology platform … they could call it the IBM PC (Personal Car).

    • ozajh says:

      IBM did NOT intend to keep their PC architecture open, but were overtaken by events. They felt they could totally control the overall development cycle for PC’s as they did in mainframes and minicomputers, and wanted to get a product to the market fast as a spoiler.

      They intended to then internalise the design , starting with the Operating System and going on to the CPU etc. (My workplace actually used OS/2 PC’s for a few years, which was what IBM considered their “real” OS.)

      I was once told that the IBM PC design was FROM IBM’s PERSPECTIVE the worst single business decision the company ever made, and a contender for the worst ANY company ever made.

  6. No wonder the Volt is a dog. Trying to get an electric car to perform like a petrol one is a waste of time. Modifying a two ton gas guzzler is not what I would call innovative engineering.
    Electric cars are ideal for the urban cycle. Trips of under ten miles to the shops or even to work. Save the petrol car for long trips.

    • addicted says:

      That’s funny, because EVs perform better than gasoline cars in every way except range. In fact, the modern gasoline cars are working on improving performance by making their engines look better than EVs.

      You do know that the Model S won every car award that was to be won this year, right?

  7. a glimmer of hope

  8. Paul Klinkman says:

    Battery power is ideal for any huge, weighty vehicle. We should have electric semi-trucks saving 60% of their diesel fuel costs with a ton or two of batteries on board. Some people are already putting solar panels on the roofs of trucks to extend their range and to power non-engine truck electrical systems (air conditioning, for example).

    The ultimate heavy vehicles are trains and ships. They both need lots of power and they both can store and move an awful lot of dead weight.

  9. Ken Barrows says:

    In the battle against climate change, having fewer cars is a more important goal than just changing the type we drive.

    That is so if you believe the consensus on Climate Progress about the scope of the problem.

  10. Would ThinkProgress be interested in having me write for them?

  11. Hello.

    Just to ensure everyone knows, I am the one that wrote this article.

    If ThinkProgress would be interested in taking me on, even as an unpaid intern, feel free to contact me.